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1989-12-06: The names of the women gunned down at Montréal's École Polytechnique

Every time I look at my young women engineering colleagues, I think of these names. And I do my very best for those colleagues, in the names of those who were prevented from joining me in teaching them.

May their names be remembered forever.

(Thanks to [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll for the image.)
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Passed a million steps, since I started measuring on July 7. *throws confetti*

The last three weeks have been like hiking through molasses. I have mostly made step-count, but I have also gone entire days without measuring my blood sugar because I just wanted to eat and eat and eat.

Thank you to the couple of people who reached out to me when the weekly posting didn't appear. My audience here is not large, but it is very supportive. Thank you.

I can barely face the prospect of the US mid-terms and their (lack of) aftermath. As is usual when I enter one of these phases, I am continuing forward mostly out of habit. This is why I worked so hard to establish the habits while it was still mostly light out, and before I re-engaged with the world. The habits are serving me pretty well right now, but oof.

I had a lovely trip to Minneapolis, and the chill on my skin felt wonderful. But now I want to hibernate, to set my alarm clock for "Spring," and just hide myself away through the coming awful season. But I can't go back to disengaging, because I'm afraid I'll never ever want to come out again. And there are so many who need comfort just as much as I do: my trans colleagues, my Jewish friends, my comrades who are mentally ill. I am not obligated to finish this work, but I sure as hell am not free to abandon it, either. My love is all I have for this world, and in the end, it doesn't matter whether it's enough or not; it's everything I have, everything I am. Every teaspoon counts, every person comforted is that much less pain in the world. So I get up in the morning and do it all over again.
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Last week was the first week I dropped below 8k steps/day on average. I also had serious resistance to making a summary post, since I had convinced myself no one was reading them anyway. This, for those who are not already having light bulbs go off over their heads, is a sign that I'm depressed. I am reluctant to engage, pulling back from friends, and not scheduling things like lab work and follow-up psych appointments. Even as I write this, I am not entirely certain that I am going to post it.

Lisa is out of the house this week; I dropped her off at the airport early this morning. Ordinarily this would mean more time with friends for me, but the people I usually spend time with are busy doing other things. And to tell the truth, I am not really feeling terribly social. Making new friends seems like it would be the thing to do, but just the idea of it is exhausting.

The world is on fire, of course, in a very nearly literal sense. Between the not-so-slow spiral into post-democracy of US politics, the rise of the right everywhere I look, and the news about the future of the planet, it's hard to find reasons to be hopeful. Some of my friends and colleagues are having babies and raising children, and I am grateful for them, because I don't have the heart, and this is something I've known about myself since before I had internalized that I was depressed. But I worry about the world those kids are going to inherit.

What do you do when depression and withdrawal seem to be perfectly rational responses to a country that hates more than half its population and a world where the greed-heads have by far the majority of the power?

So yes, this is the "I lift my head up and the world comes crashing in" that I was worried about early in my recovery. And it's every bit as overwhelming as I feared it would be. So, if you see me this week, ask first, but a hug or holding my hand or just quietly sitting with me would be most welcome.

Those of you in NC and Florida, I'm thinking good thoughts your way. Watch out for each other, please.
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The London trip was without incident; stopping in Toronto on the way out was a good plan, and the 11-hour direct flight back was not awful, once I knew my body could take it.

I set a new personal step-count record in London; over 15k steps in a single day. Felt good; breathing and heart rate were steady, and my feet didn't blister too badly. Yay for Bigfoot socks! The weather was phenomenal: no rain at all over the week, sunny and high temperatures in the high teens and lower 20s. I got some lovely photos of the Thames at dawn, and the dragon who guards the Tower of London.

Blood sugar was amazingly steady, given the carb-heaviness and time-inconsistency of my intake. I mostly remembered to take my meds on time, but even when I didn't, the measurements were not bad.

The work-related meetings were ... pretty much what I expected. No big revelations, just a continuation in the direction I was already aware of. Progress is not uniform, nor is it guaranteed, and we are backsliding (regressing?) in some areas even as we make forward motion in others. I did pretty emphatically confirm that I am still unsuited to middle-management -- functioning well in that space requires compromises that I am not prepared to make. Give me this group of engineers to take care of, and I'll improvise, empathize, extrapolate, and go to great lengths to keep the working environment for them as sane as I can make it. But ask me to treat front-line engineers as fungible "human resources," more like counters on a game board than human beings with lives and passions and terrors, and I lack the necessary abstraction tools. Some things I can compartmentalize; the lives of people who work for me and with me every day do not fall in that category. That's what power means, to me. I'd make a terrible executive; the ramifications of every decision would swirl around and around in my brain forever.

My fellow managers continue to delight, amaze, and exasperate me. And I do the same for them, I'd bet. Two valued colleagues left while I was away; I will miss them a great deal.

Take good care of each other, and yourselves. Thanks again for reading.
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This week's update post brought to you by London Bankside at a crisp 5 degrees Celsius.

Man, this whole trip may have been worth it for just this morning's walk. I got a couple of photos, but they don't do justice to the autumn in the air. The Thames is quiet and moody, and the city of London just waking up is an extraordinary thing, usual English reticence defied by the camaraderie of people out walking before anyone with any sense has gotten out of bed. And that's to say nothing of the mad English runners, who are very much like their French counterparts, but will even manage a smile and a "Morning!" if greeted with same.

This week is going to be flled with meetings I don't want to attend and listening to decisions that I really don't have a lot of choice in. So it's good to grab the human moments where I can.

The hotel is Euro-trashy in a different way from the ibis I stayed in at MozFest last year. Not without its charm, but I'm betting I'll have had enough of the cozy-cheap!-Euro-modern vibe by the time I go home again. The co-working space that Moz UK uses for an office is literally right around the corner, so I'm going to have to go to some effort to get the daily steps in.

Speaking of steps, this past week marked a slight uptick, but travel completely obliterated a day and a half's worth of walking. So I'm not back to 10k steps/day yet. But I'm going to try to make up in scenery what I'm missing in mileage.

I expected to set off the metal detector at SFO; I did not. No explanations to give there. I did not expect to feel exactly where the stents are in my chest when the plane from Toronto to London took off; that's new.

Onward, ever onward. Take care of yourselves (and each other, of course) out there.
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Last week was a bit disorganized, on a bunch of levels. There is a small but significant list of things left undone: the lab visit, the re-scheduling of my behavioral psych appointment, the mid-week post I had talked about last week ... and my weekly summary post. Hmm, I'm detecting a pattern here. My phone even got into the act: my step-counting software updated itself during the week, and the handy summary info I had been using for these posts was suddenly nowhere to be found. Short summary: basically 8k steps/day for 6 days this week, for a rough total of 48k steps, or about 34km, significantly down from my average week.

Also conspicuous by its absence was any sign of motivation to do anything but play with laptops in my pyjamas on Saturday. I didn't pick up my phone once, so I had a record-breaking 0 steps recorded. There was a sort of perverse purity in that step count, showing both the limitations of the measuring device and my utter lack of get-up-and-go. I did make step-count on Sunday, getting back in the saddle with some enthusiasm. And so far today, I am halfway to step-count with good numbers. So I think we can regard Saturday as a temporary aberration/respite, with no lasting effects.

Blood sugar was surprisingly stable, given all the other chaos. I'm actually motivated to get into the lab and get that A1c done -- I'm curious to see the results. Maybe I'll do that this afternoon in the gap between meetings. Better drink a litre of water now, then.

Social life was good last week, and is going to get positively busy this week; I have a friend coming in from out of town, and plans for at least three out of five nights this week. Quite a change from the fairly quiet summer.

All right, time to get this out before it gets any later. Thanks for reading; I hope everyone is doing ok out there.
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Whew. For a short week, this has certainly been a long week.

Monday was a holiday. I didn't get to Mountain View at all this week, and got into SF only for Friday afternoon. Weekly step count and mileage was slightly down, though I stayed over 8k steps/day. I'll fill in the final numbers here once my phone generates them. (And here they are: total 60k steps for 47.76km.)

Blood sugar was mostly good, as usual. A couple of highs, a couple of lows, but nothing that persisted beyond one measurement. Late-night ice cream cravings were still there, but less than last week.

I still haven't re-scheduled with my behavioural psych, and I'm due to go in the lab and get blood drawn this coming week. Next appointment with my cardiac rehab nurse is not until October. I'm not allowed to refill some of my meds until the 23rd, which is a bit of an issue because I'm overseas from 23-30 September. I need to count pills and make sure I have enough, and call the pharmacy if not.

I wouldn't quite say I'm anxious about the work trip, but I have some concerns. There's a lot of bean-counting going on in my vicinity at work lately, and I don't like the trend.

Emotionally, I'm settling into the groove (or rut, depending on your point of view) I was in before June, with the exception that I'm making time to move/walk every day. I have taken the Twitter app off my phone, and my bio there says I've left. I've tried Mastodon, but it feels a little bit like I'd imagine methadone would. So I'm sticking with b.org and my DW circle, for now. I haven't tried Pillowfort (apparently the latest fandom thing) or any of the other experiments going on just now -- a combination of not enough spoons and a desire to make the time I spend in front of screens actually make me happy. I might have a mid-week post about software tools that make me happy -- posting about it might help me clarify my thinking.

The next two months are going to be hard -- changes in my social circle and contentious issues at work. I need to be careful not to sabotage myself by shorting myself on sleep or water or food or walks.

That's all for me for now. One week after another, adding my voice to the chorus. May you and all your loved ones be safe and happy and cherished.
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A short but intense week for me at work -- interviews with a handful of candidates in the Mountain View office both Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a quiet day on Thursday and then taking Friday off, to make a four-day week and a four-day weekend, counting the Labo(u)r Day holiday tomorrow.

Staying in the 9k range for daily step count -- might try to push it back to 10k/day next week, now that the cough has passed (again.) Total for the week was 68.6k steps, for 53.53km. After averaging a bunch of weeks, it appears that my normal walking pace is 105-110 steps of 65-70cm stride per minute, or 72 m/min ~ 4.3 km/h. As always, the fog has been lovely, the weather near home very co-operative for walking.

Blood sugar was mostly pretty good -- I'm getting in a habit of pushing the pre-dinner walk a little hard, to try to get the evening reading below 100. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Next week I go back into the lab to get blood work and my first A1c since the day after I got out of the hospital. Wish me good numbers. Also wish me patience with my old PCP, who has recently started calling me again.

Actually got in a little beach time this week, having dinner with a friend and seeing one of those gorgeous Pacifica sunsets. I'd been staying close to home with the cough, and it feels good to step outside of that a little.

I've spent most of the long weekend so far wallowing in pop music bombast -- My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco. I suppose we'll see if that's a good sign or not -- I blame my favourite bunny-cuddling gothygirl.

Onward, into September, ready or not.
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Well, this has certainly been a week. Among other things, it featured the return of the cough I had after Vancouver in May, with some rhinitis and sneezing, although it didn't really develop into either a full-fledged cold or Con Crud. But it did keep me mostly out of the office, and away from my psych appointment. It also kept my daily step-count down to 8k from 10k, but I made step count every day. So that's 9020 steps/day on average, for a total of just over 63k steps. Total distance just under 50km.

Most of my social support system was otherwise engaged this week, whether with aftermath of Worldcon or with their own stuff, so I felt quite a bit more isolated than usual. In one particular case, this co-incided with a blood sugar reading of 52 (!) mg/dL, which made the word 'crash' a bit more apt than I would have liked. No, I was not anywhere near a car at the time, thank goodness. I had a quiet meltdown with some friends on one of my hobby websites, but recovered once I had eaten and slept a bit. Other than that incident, blood sugar has been pretty consistent and within acceptable ranges.

I'm struggling with feeling like I'm more of a social "burden" than my current support system can bear, so I'm reaching out to some friends I haven't talked with in a while, trying to spread the load, as it were. I have the persistent feeling that all of my local friends have worse stuff going on than I do, and it's really hard to tell how much of that is actually true and how much of it is my own brain weasels trying to tell me I'm not "worth" spending time with.

Work continues to be a bit up and down; I didn't get a promotion but I did get a pretty substantial raise. My boss professes himself happy with the work I'm doing. The people I'm working with are pretty much all delightful. I would normally be very excited about going to London for work meetings at the end of September, but I know that the subject matter is going to be contentious and that I will be socially overloaded.

We'll see what happens once I get the psych appointment re-scheduled and maybe find some folks to hang out with in non-work settings. This feels less like "the world crashing in" and more like "I am definitely stuck in a rut, time to find a way out."

See you next week; thanks for reading.
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Some personal stuff (that isn't my story to tell) happened last week, so I didn't get a progress report out. Quick summary: Within 400 steps of 80k. 63 and a quarter km. Blood sugar was good. Emotionally, the week was up and down. Thursday was a good visit with my cousin, a marvellous walk in SF, and a personal best step-count: 13,800.

For some reason, my phone has not generated a weekly summary for this week. Therefore, this post will not be as numbers-heavy. I did drop below step-count (now at 8k steps/day) once this week, but I did manage to average about 10k steps/day overall.

[Added on Monday: The auto-generated summary was a day late, but did arrive: Total 71.8k steps for the week, for an average of just over 10k/day. Total distance walked: 58.85 km, or 8.4 km/day.]

I had a really bad day on Thursday. That day, plus feeling pretty poorly physically, led me to leave Worldcon early, just for the comfort of sleeping in my own bed. I've been sniffling and coughing off and on since Friday, so I cancelled my trip up to see the family in Point Reyes -- I didn't want to get anyone else sick. I'm also going to stay out of the office(s) this week, until I feel like I'm no longer contagious.

On Saturday my blood sugar was all over the place (low: 65, high: 230) but I mostly kept at it, and was rewarded this morning by a reading of 117. Hard, frustrating, and being sick doesn't help. I need to postpone my therapy appointment because I still feel contagious and I don't want to get my behavioural psych sick, but I also need to get in and talk about this particular confluence of obstacles. I'll try to push for a week's postponement, to next Tuesday the 28th. With luck my lungs will be less funky by then.

Man, have I not missed the wheezy, chesty cough that comes with exercising too hard when my lungs are compromised. I'm hoping this clears up in reasonable time -- it's inconvenient and frankly gives me flashbacks to when I was in much worse shape than I am now.

Still here, still moving. Still scared. But I didn't stay in bed all day today, so that's something.

Onward.
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Steady as she goes. 10k steps/day, good weather, lots of fog, and my shoes are holding up. I've discovered a few new features on my phone's built-in exercise/step-counting app, so there's been a little tech to play with. Blood sugar staying within acceptable ranges.

I had the chance to talk with some of my support crew this week, which lessened some of the emotional pressure; I'll be fine going back to the behavioural psych on the 21st. I have a follow-up with my cardiac rehab nurse on Thursday; I'll confirm with her that the Plavix is supposed to be once a day rather than twice.

Mood this week has been pretty good. The world is still a hard place to be, and seeing homeless people in pain every time I go to SF (or Oakland or anywhere outside of my little end-of-the-BART-line bubble) has never, ever been easy -- and if it ever becomes easy, that will not, in fact, be a good sign. There is no way to dull those nerves without making me appreciably less the human being I want to be -- someone who empathizes more easily than this hegemonic society wants me to. I may not be able to alleviate all the pain I see, but I can bear witness, and I can let that witness inform my actions. I can resist the cruelty that seems to be everywhere; I can say my quiet "no." And I can refuse to close my heart.

I have cancelled or postponed a bunch of travel this year; I was, at one point, planning to spend the month of October in London. My last chance before Brexit has its way with the UK. But I'm just not up to it -- being away from home is exhausting for me now, and although I feel adequately physically strong, my mental fortitude isn't there yet, and it's important for me to acknowledge that.

Maybe next year; even if Brexit changes the economic landscape drastically, I expect that I will still have colleagues in the UK, and that there will still be meaningful collaboration to be done. And I want to ride the trains to Scotland, dammit. And a bunch of my found family wants to see Ireland. I'm following in my paternal grandmother's footsteps: starting my world-travelling days late in life.

It's good to still have adventures to plan. May your plans go well enough to not cause anxiety, but bring you enough delightful surprises that you will not be bored.
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I spent the first half of this week in the Central Valley of California, where the highs were 37-42C (98 to 108F.) And the hotel gym was nasty. So I walked outside when I could, in the twilight hours. Consequently, my averages were more like 8k steps than 10k. But the blood sugars stayed under control.

I switched blood thinners, from a spiffy new name-brand taken twice a day to a generic taken once a day. I mis-dosed myself for a couple of days this week, taking the generic twice a day. Whether that accounts for the odd indigestion-like discomfort, or whether it was just the heat, I'll find out in the week to come. Medication interactions and side effects are a bloody nuisance, but it beats the alternative by a long chalk.

The body wants to move, now, most of the time. A good book will still keep me immersed for hours, but when I come back to the world, I need to move. I'm hanging on to that need for dear life, because it's the only thing that will keep me from crawling into a hole and never ever coming out.

There have been deaths that affect people close to me in both my work and personal worlds this week. I am trying very hard not to think about what it would have done to both those worlds if I had made a different choice five weeks ago. My follow-up with my behavioral counsellor is in two weeks; if I can't hang on that long, I'll move it earlier.

I don't want to die, but some of the fatigue that made it so easy to neglect my medications, my diet, and my self-care is visible at the edges of my world now. I am slowly relaxing my tight focus on getting through the next day, the next walk, the next hour. And the world creeps in.

I spent most of this week in the company of people I love and who love me, and it makes a difference. I kept moving, kept breathing, kept loving. And I will keep doing so, until I can't anymore. This part of the state is still beautiful, the fog dragons are still great company, there is still a reason to get up and walk, to clear my head and remind me of how good it feels to move, to be able to move, to breathe freely.

But I'm not going to lie to you; it's hard. The cruelty on display everywhere just makes me want to scream. And nothing, nothing, nothing I see anywhere makes me believe it's going to get better before it gets much, much worse. These are excruciating times for those of us who have brain chemistries that make us more sensitive to others' pain. A world in which I personally get all the love I need but there is an Omelas in every city, every little town, in every country around the world, is a world in which my humanity feels very much compromised.

That got a little dark, didn't it? All I can do is sit with it, sit with the discomfort of knowing I can't fix it all. And then choose to do what I can, where I can, when I can.

It's not much, but it's all I've got. Suggestions and solidarity welcome. Take care of each other.
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There are various memorials and eulogies going around the Internet this weekend -- the Mozilla project has lost one of its early activists, an enfant terrible who did quite a bit of work to get Mozilla on the map, and into the public's consciousness.

Into the space that he occupied, I have this to say:

When you get to the Heaven you professed to believe in, my former colleague, I hope you find that every single homophobic remark you made, every colleague whose marriage you questioned, every trans person whose identity you tried to dismiss, every inclusive idea you shot down because "it's not a very good idea, to be honest," and most especially, every marginalized person, every one of "the least of these" you drove away from Mozilla, is permanently inscribed in your Book of Life. I hope you see that every single person you slighted, diminished, dismissed, and argued their validity with was every bit as much a child of Heaven as you were. And I hope you are deeply, deeply ashamed.

And then I hope God enfolds you in Her arms and tells you that you can do better next time before She sends you around again to learn something. Because you hurt a metric fuckton of my friends, associates and colleagues. All of the work you did promoting Mozilla, open source software, and the early Internet doesn't erase the fact that you made Mozilla an actively hostile place to work for some of the most brilliant and compassionate people I've ever worked with.

And when I celebrate the Queering MozFest track in London this October, I will think about how much you would have decried it, and maybe even tried to stop it. And I will redouble my efforts to make sure that every one of my queer/trans/GSM colleagues knows that they are welcome, and that Mozilla is a better place to work because they are there.

Week four

Jul. 22nd, 2018 08:49 pm
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Another 10k/day week. Weekly summary says I passed 60km this week. Not quite 75k steps for the whole week.

Blood sugars continue to be well-controlled -- I went both over and under targets this week, but in each case was able to get back to the target range by the next measurement. I'm measuring when I get up in the morning and just before dinner, every day.

I do much better on days when I can get a couple of thousand steps in before noon. I have to be careful not to overdo it, though, because doing 6k steps before noon makes me want to nap all afternoon.

Therapy on Tuesday went all right: this fellow is very much focused on getting my meds and my eating and exercise habits in place. At my follow-up in a month, I will see if he can put me in touch with a grief counsellor to deal with some of the underlying issues, which I've basically been swallowing for the past six years.

Moving still feels good. I'm still in a position where many of my support crew have at least as much going on as I do, so we all do what we can, and try to hold on together. I wish the world would let up on us for a while, but that looks pretty unlikely.

Folks at work continue to be pretty wonderful. I'm cleared for travel this autumn, but again, I need to not overdo it. But it looks like there will be one trans-Atlantic round-trip this year. Whether it will be in September or October is still up in the air.

Working remotely from a very hot part of California early this week; we'll see if I can keep up the walking without my beloved fog dragons. Seriously, it's positively luxurious walking in the fog during the day. Perfect temperature, and I don't even mind sweating.

Wish me luck, and good numbers. I'm very fond of all of you.

Week #3

Jul. 15th, 2018 09:31 pm
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Still here, still walking, still getting used to all these meds, still (mostly) eating right.

I walked nearly 60km this week. 73,750 steps. Just over 5 miles a day. My legs hate me; they're not used to being the weakest link. They used to be able to count on my lungs to give out first. No longer; my breathing remains good. My pace is slowly picking up, but I'm not hurrying that -- for now my focus is on repeatability and sustainability.

The commute is different now -- walking from the front door to the bus stop, walking from BART to the office, not just "when I feel like it," but every time. That's roughly 2,500 steps each way. If I walk anywhere at all at lunchtime, that pretty much guarantees me 6,000 steps for the day.

Saw the rehab nurse, and we took stock of my medications. Two for asthma, two for diabetes, two blood thinners, two for cholesterol, one for hypertension. That's nine, right? Oh, and one to protect my stomach from being eaten by the blood thinners. Ten. Every day. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

But my blood pressure was 108/67 when I went in to the nurse's office. That's the lowest I've seen it in at least a decade. So we're doing something right.

One more week of pushing hard on the walking, then we see if the habits have taken hold. Oh, and therapy on Tuesday. La, la, nothing to see here. God, I hope this therapist isn't an asshole.

One foot in front of the other. Keep the body moving until it can sustain itself. And somehow keep the world from crushing me when I finally look up.

See you on the other side. Thanks for reading.
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This was the week of measuring. And walking. And more walking.

Blood sugars holding steady, right where we want them. I have walked every single day this week. The exercise makes a huge difference, both in the way I feel and in my numbers. I continue to be amazed at my newfound ability to walk uphill (slowly) without wheezing myself into an asthmatic state.

This coming week I have a follow-up with my cardiac rehab nurse -- we'll go over my diet and meds. I have had a chat by phone with my cousin the nurse practiitioner; she gave me some useful advice about meds and dosing. Most severe side effect so far is that metformin @100mg gives me diarrhea pretty badly, so we may have to back off a bit. That's what the walking is for.

Yesterday I turned on the step-counting app on my phone, and got in nearly 5,000 steps between 4pm and midnight. Today I am probably going to hit 10,000 steps. I don't expect to keep that level up, but I'm going to gather a week's worth of data and then see where to set my goals.

Mentally and emotionally, I'm still kind of all over the place. My appointment with the folks at Behavioral Health (therapy) is not until a week from Tuesday; we'll see how the situation changes as that day approaches.

Two more weeks of walking every day, morning and evening, without fail. Then the habits will be formed, and maybe I can ease off on myself a little. But for now, diligence. The only way out is through.
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Well, it's been quite a week.

Follow-up appointments with the cardiologist, my new PCP, and the cardiac recovery nurse. At least five new medications, and adjustments to the four I was already taking. Multiple side-effects, some known, some new. The struggle to get my fasting blood glucose down below 100 mg/dL, which finally bore fruit yesterday. My pancreas has not yet packed it in so badly that I need injected insulin, but it was a near thing.

A lot of my usual support system is out of town this weekend, so doing all of the meds-pickup and follow-up appointments as well as getting the car smogged and re-registered has had me dashing around quite a bit.

The folks at work have been fabulous -- I got hugs and enthusiasm when I went into the office on Friday. Folks in my boss's staff meeting this past Monday (the day after I was released from the hospital) were admonishing me to take it easy, but since I was telecommuting the rest of the week, it was much better for my state of mind if I just did what I could and then let the rest go. Besides, my boss is going on parental leave for six weeks, so this was my last chance to confer with him for a while.

I am in much better shape than I was last week, and hope to make moderate progress at increasing my daily exercise so I can reduce some of the meds I'm taking.

Many people are not lucky enough to get a wake-up call like this. I will do my very best not to waste it.
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I drove myself to Kaiser's emergency room at 2:30am on Saturday because I was having some chest pain that wouldn't let me sleep. I expected that they would prescribe me a heavy-duty antacid and send me away. However, once you utter the words "chest pain" in an emergency room, things start to happen very fast.

Once they did two EKGs, they arranged to have me packed into an ambulance and transferred to St Rose Hospital in Hayward, "because they have the best cardiologists around." That was when I clued in that this might be serious. Attempting jocularity, I asked the emergency intern, "Is this for the heart attack I had earlier without noticing it, or is it for the one that's in my very near future?" His reply was sobering: "It's for the heart attack that you're having right now."

Once we arrived at St Rose, they swept me straight to the cath lab, where a very animated and thorough cardiologist did what is called a "left-side catheterization" (or "left cath" for short.) I was awake for the whole procedure -- local anaesthetic took care of the entry point at my groin, and there wasn't any other pain. Feeling people fiddling around in my major blood vessels was very, very odd, but I wouldn't call it pain.

The cardiologist informed me in brisk terms that both my left-side cardiac arteries were between 98 and 99% blocked, and that they were going to balloon and stent them. "Fortunately, your right side looks like a superhighway -- clear all the way." So I spent 45 minutes or so getting my cardiac pathways roto-rooted, and spent about 24 hours subsequently at St Rose, 10 of them in ICU and 14 or so in a regular room.

And then, amazingly enough, they told me I could go. I have a spectacular bruise on my right groin, two new stents, and who knows how much billing hassle to go through, but the monster that got my grandfather at age 58 in 1970 did not get me at age 51.

So now I am home and safe, and I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life, just like my grandmother was before me -- her heart attack was in 1988, when she was 75. She lived to be 90. And when she could finally feel the spring winding down, she sat down and wrote a note to her cardiac surgeon, thanking him for 14 wonderful years.

So for at least the next little while, I will be doing my very best to cherish every month, every week, every day that the cheerful cardiologist at St Rose has gifted me. Thanks, doc. You're brilliant.
karlht: (Default)
I am thankful to have lived to 50. I really didn't think I'd get here.

I am thankful for my friends, both near and far, both past and present.

I am thankful for the opportunity to travel, to visit new places and fall in love with them.

I am thankful for a job doing work I believe in with people I enjoy, for a reasonable wage.

I am thankful for the people willing to speak truth to power, to call out injustice, discrimination, and the insolence of office, in a world where it is increasingly dangerous to do these things.

And if you are reading this, I am thankful for you. More than likely, you know why.

Be good to one another, and hold on.
karlht: (Default)
An excerpt from a note I sent to my mother's family on May 28:

Most of you have met my father Bill at some point --- he and Janet divorced in 1979, and his interactions with the family thereafter were quite limited, but he did come to Lisa's and my wedding in 2000, and most of you saw him and his wife Kathy there.

Bill is about to be sent home from Oak Ridge Hospital with a hospice team -- he had an infection outside his lung that they were able to successfully remove, but the lack of oxygen to his brain, coupled with the liver damage that 50+ years of alcoholism had done to his liver, has meant that he has not regained consciousness since the surgery on May 8th. We had some hope that in the week following the surgery, he might come back to us -- he was breathing on his own, reacting to some stimuli, and seemed to be making slow and steady progress. But it is now pretty clear that recovery of consciousness is unlikely, and that he is in that unenviable twilight state between life and death. The end may come in days, weeks, months -- we don't know. There is no brain bleed and no gross trauma that any scans can see, but his brain seems to have reached its limit in terms of re-establishing connection with his body.

When the time comes, I will let all of you know, and those of us who knew him can gather (with Dan Decious and anyone else I can think of on this coast who loved my parents) and tell stories and toast his memory. If you have suggestions for who should be invited, please feel free to send them in a reply. In the meantime, I ask for all of your good thoughts for Kathy -- their 30th wedding anniversary was April 6, and what this is doing to her is just heartbreaking.

Bill left us about 6am Eastern time this morning. RIP William Ernest Thiessen, born September 17, 1934, in Kansas City, Missouri, died at home in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, June 4, 2015. He taught me how to draw a crystal structure, how to musically blend in an ensemble, how to drive (and parallel park!) a stick shift, and how to make popcorn on the stove. My current profession as a software engineer also owes much to his development of programs in FORTRAN to analyze scattering patterns from neutron diffraction when I was at an impressionable age.

December 2018

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